Does Your Seeking Fuel Your Service?

by | Apr 19, 2024 | Depression and Faith | 1 comment

Are you a layperson who’s consistently involved in various venues of service for the Lord?

Are you a vocational Christian worker? A pastoral staff member, missionary, counselor or parachurch staffer?

As you engage in your spheres of service, do you sometimes feel depleted of the physical, mental and emotional energy needed to fulfill your roles? 

If so, then don’t wait as long as I did to learn a vital lesson about what fuels ministry.

What Fuels Service for the Lord?

 As I reflect on over fifty-five years of vocational ministry, a regret surfaces.

Occasionally, during periods of heavier-than-normal ministry loads, my service for the Lord sabotaged my seeking of Him. I focused on doing more than being. Looking back as a more objective observer, at times I seemed to be more in love with the Lord’s work than I was in love with my Savior.

Oh, I’m aware it’s never an either-or proposition. Both hard work and private times cultivating intimacy with Christ are integral parts of my life and calling. Yet if I could start over again as a church staff member and Bible college professor, I’d more ruthlessly protect a regular, unhurried time of devotional Bible study, prayer and private worship. As I faced the demand of the day ahead, I sometimes rushed through those early morning quiet times.

What Convinced Me To Seek the Lord More Aggressively?

Only after a decade of ministry did I become convinced that the physical, emotional and spiritual energy required for my ministry output depended on unhurried time alone with my Savior. I said I believed this from the start, but that cognitive acknowledgement didn’t morph into schedule changes until I experienced burnout. The symptoms included restlessness, drivenness, a greater vulnerability to temptation, and irritability.

How Did Paul Define Ministry?

In Colossians 1:24-27, Paul mentions his suffering for the gospel and cites his calling to preach. He insists that the hope of glory is “Christ in you.” Then in verses 28-29 he describes his ministry in more detail: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this we toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (emphasis mine).

His words “toil” and “struggling” suggest diligence and intensity. The term translated “struggling” indicates tenacious labor tantamount to wrestling. What fueled Paul’s soul as he worked hard for Christ? He emphasized that divine input fueled his ministry output. He cites Christ’s energy “that he powerfully works within me.”

I became acquainted with the implications of these verses in a message I heard from the late Baptist pastor, Ron Dunn, when he spoke at a conference for Christian workers. He gleaned from these verses what he called “Paul’s definition of ministry”:

Ministry is my putting out what God is putting into me.

Is Seeking God Only for the Sake of Serving Him?

I don’t spend time with the Lord just so I’ll have ample energy to serve Him. No, I desperately want and need to know Him better and enjoy His presence even if no tasks await me on any given day. Nonetheless, during my latter years of full-time ministry, I often asked myself a series of questions as I sought to apply those verses in Colossians.

How Do I Evaluate Whether My Seeking Is Fueling My Service?

Periodically, I planned an extended time with the Lord and asked Him to help me answer these questions accurately and honestly:

  • To what extent is what I’m doing for the Lord fueled by input from Him?
  • What does a neglect of intimacy with Christ suggest about my priorities and my motives?
  • If I struggle to spend personal time with the Lord, does that suggest that my identity is rooted in what I do for Him, rather than in what He has done for me?
  • What adjustments must I make in my schedule so Christ has ample opportunity to fuel my work and recharge my batteries with the energy that only He can provide?
  • Why am I more susceptible to despondency or discouragement when I don’t diligently and consistently pursue intimacy with the Lord?*

*By posing that last question, I’m not suggesting that an imbalanced schedule or wrong priorities is usually the cause of my depression. I’ve been mired in the bog of depression when my devotional times were long, rich and unhurried. Yet I’ve discovered that excessive work without adequate rest and replenishment of my spirit do make me more vulnerable to a dip in mood. And a paltry diet of God’s Word and neglect of heartfelt prayer may keep me from fighting depression with means of grace God has provided, keeping me in the abyss of despondency longer than necessary.

What Are Some Apt Quotes on the Importance of Seeking?

To put a cap on this article, I’ll quote from two books that assist in my attempts to apply Paul’s definition of ministry.

“Where your priorities are, there your time will be.”
–Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World (Revised and Updated Edition)

Pastor John Ortberg asked his friend and mentor Dallas Willard, “What do I need to do to stay spiritually healthy?” After a long pause, Willard said, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
–From John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You

What have you learned about the correlation between serving the Lod and seeking Him?

An online resource for church leaders, Biblical Leadership, posted this article in their free weekly e-letter on April 2, 2024. I adapted it for my blog. Subscribe to their letter and receive several articles on leadership and ministry each week.

Decades ago, Robert Munger wrote a pamphlet, My Heart, Christ’s Home, that speaks to the topic of this post. Today (April 19, 2024) this 32-page gem, read by over 10 million people, sells for $2.99 at Amazon Books.

Please note: comments are closed after two weeks. You are welcome to contact me directly after that time if you would like to share your thoughts.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Powell, thanks for writing this blog. I have been working along side my husband for several years, as a submissive and helpful Christian Life Coach for Women he refers to me. Today I felt tired, and I didn’t want to get up and go to church, I didn’t want to talk to any one. Am I burn out?
    My thinking is I am studying, maybe just going through a moment of frustration, I do have my own family to contend with. However, after thinking back over a few weeks, I see where I was slacking in my personal days and time I was giving to the Lord.
    Your reminder to “daily find time for my spiritual time with Jesus, relit my fire. Thank you. I will add more days to my “Me Time Alone With Jesus.”


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